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Provost’s statement on changes to OSAP and tuition fees

The following is a statement from Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris to Queen’s faculty and staff regarding the government of Ontario’s recently-announced plan to overhaul the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) and cut tuition fees at post-secondary institutions.

Dear Colleagues,

As you may be aware, a few weeks ago the Government of Ontario announced its plan to overhaul the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) and also cut tuition fees at all colleges and universities by 10 per cent for domestic students enrolled in funding-eligible programs.  As well, these fees are not to be increased from these reduced levels for the next two years. This tuition reduction and freeze will have a significant impact on the operating budgets of post-secondary institutions in Ontario, including Queen’s. Principal Daniel Woolf has tasked me, through the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Budget (PACB), to provide options to him by the end of February on how we can best respond to this serious financial challenge.

Here’s a breakdown of how the tuition cut and freeze will impact the university. In 2018-19, the university’s total operating revenue was $638 million, with 38 per cent of it, or $244.4 million, coming from domestic student tuition fees that are subject to the 10 per cent reduction. Add in a further $7 million which would have been collected through a planned three per cent increase in domestic tuition, and the total reduction in operating revenues for the coming academic year (2019-20) will be $31.4 million. This will be followed by another $7 million revenue reduction the following year as tuition fees will stay frozen in 2020-21.

In response, Principal Woolf has developed the following set of principles to guide our budgetary decision-making.

Queen’s will remain focused on our core academic mission of excellence in teaching, research, and service to our communities. A crucial element is our continued commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusivity – including socioeconomic accessibility.

We will maintain, in so far as possible, our commitment to faculty renewal. We have achieved momentum in this crucial activity, and while it will likely be slowed in the face of this budgetary challenge to all Ontario universities, it must not stop.

We are one university and will support faculties, schools, and shared services so that the impact of the financial constraints don’t fall disproportionally on individual units.

We are committed to looking at all possible source of funds, including the judicious use of unit carry-forwards to preserve our academic mission.

We will be transparent in our decision-making and will keep our community informed.

With these principles in mind, we will be studying many options. We know we can’t cut our way to excellence so our response will be a combination of revenue generation, along with cost reductions. A multi-year strategy is contemplated.

We also expect to learn more about the OSAP changes in the weeks and how they will impact our prospective and current students.

Queen’s currently provides significant support to students in need of financial help through a range of programs, and we remain committed to supporting accessibility as the changes to OSAP are implemented. We will look at our financial assistance programs and will aim to launch a major fundraising effort to generate more student assistance support and look for program adjustments that will provide more support to those most in need who may have their access to university affected by the OSAP changes.

Sincerely,

Professor Tom Harris,

Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)